<< -- 3 -- Wilfrid Mellers SECOND SIGHT
This production, given its musical values, must on no account be missed.
As a theatrical experience it is not, however, among Opera North's happiest
efforts, since the almost Disneyesque crudity of its visual images threatens
to be fatal to the audible magic. For Ravel, the line between reality and
dream was almost invisible -- which is why he could shift between
the two states so readily. At this performance, I frequently found myself
closing my eyes to safeguard the magic: though I must admit that the scene
in the starlit, rose-embowered, insect-humming nocturnal garden was almost
worthy of Ravel's music.
The 'fill-up', Stravinsky's ballet Petrouchka (1911), also involves
the difference between men and machines, people and puppets, Petrouchka
himself being a puppet who is humanized by way of his extravagant love for
the beautiful Columbine, though for his pains he is brutally slaughtered
by his bestial rival in love, bluntly called The Moor. The murder is, however,
ambiguous, for after the sadistic physical action Petrouchka's 'spirit'
appears to hover over his mangled body -- presumably indicating that Diaghilev
hoped or even believed that humanity (with Diaghilev's help) would survive
the however horrendous onslaughts of 20th century mechanization. Little
is left of the original story in this Opera North revival, which of course
doesn't assay the virtuosic techniques of Diaghilev ballet. Even so, the
young dancers in the Opera North company have considerable terpsichorean
ability; and the revamped plot has a crude contemporary relevance in dealing
with Immigration and Identity. And one can always close one's eyes and listen
to Stravinsky's music which, superbly played, makes for a mini Rite of
Spring in its boldly brash tunes, teased by pristine metrical intricacies.
The music doesn't, as does the Ravel, bring tears to the eyes, but it re-creates
the Spring of the Year, as fresh as the Day's Eye.
Copyright © 9 June 2002
Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK